Around Australia: From the outback to the city and the ocean


Having spent a few days in the outback it was time today to return to the city and the ocean. Our motel was just off the highway in Katherine, so we were on our way fairly quickly. Highway One was fairly quiet although we did see our first four tanker road train and there were the inevitable roadworks. Our coffee stop was in Pine Creek at a café where a cat was sitting outside the door ready to greet us. Further on in the town is a railway museum. It was closed when we passed by, but I had a brief look around. Inevitably the gold rush was the reason the railway opened in 1889. It was extended to Katherine in 1917 but never got as far as Alice Springs. When a nearby mine closed in 1976 the railway closed. In 2004 the Darwin to Adelaide line opened which we must do at some point.

There are a couple of locomotives in a shed. As it was closed I had to take photographs through the wire enclosure.

We continued north into a more rocky and hilly landscape. Just after Hayes Creek, the option to divert via the Dorat Road to Adelaide River where it rejoins Highway One. It was even quieter and the termite mounds even bigger. Some were almost 3 metres tall.

We saw some kangaroos grazing in the bush but all too soon we were back on the main road. A sign to a place called ‘Tortilla Flats’ raised a smile. After Mount Dam the water pipe ran alongside the road. Bad signage nearer Darwin meant that we missed our exit but third time lucky we were on the correct road and off to the airport to dump the rental car. Some bizarre rules mean that we could not keep the same car all the way around according to the offices in the UK and Sydney. The woman in the Darwin office thought that we could have had a rolling contract. Anyway, it is pleasant to be car-less for a day and hopefully we can re-negotiate the fee we are being charged which is for those dropping off at a different destination. Whichever car we have, it will be returned to Sydney where we started. One bit of good news is that when we checked into our hotel, we got upgraded to a suite with an ocean view! The following morning, en route to the Botanic Garden, I spotted an Avis office in town. While James went in to switch the car pick up to that office I explored the Catholic Cathedral opposite.


We walked the just under two miles to the Gardens and enjoyed being back in a green oasis after the dry outback.

Unlike the last one we visited, the epiphytic greenhouse was open and gave me some ideas to try with my orchids and some of my succulents if they have survived my absence. After a cold drink at the cafe it was time to walk a little further to the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. One of the exhibitions was 66 out of the 300 entries for the Telstra National and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. There were other galleries of art work and I particularly liked some of the linocuts and wood engravings and hope that these will inspire me to get back to my art over the winter.


There were other very colourful works as well as galleries devoted to the geology and natural history, Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Day in 1974 which I remember being reported on the TV and some early 20th century history of the Territory. After walking back to the hotel (with a diversion to a cold beer) it was time to relax with the AC on. Later on we found Darwin’s bookshop: Readback Books and Aboriginal Art Gallery. As usual when travelling I have to restrict myself and we bought one novel which we can leave behind when finished. I overheard the proprietor telling another customer that her main business was the art gallery and the books were a hobby. Sunset is later up here but it was so cloudy little could be seen. Today was the autumn equinox and a full moon. However, we could not see the moon for cloud so here is last night’s almost full one.

Around Australia: Sarina Beach to Townsville


Today we woke before dawn and watched the sun rise over the sea in front of our motel room. After breakfast we had to drive back into the centre of Sarina for fuel and to see the Cane Toad statue in the middle of town. Back home, Moffat has a sheep and Rockhampton where we stayed the previous night, has several statues of bulls.

Cane Toads are native to Central and South America. They were introduced in 1935 to control insects which were detrimental to sugar cane production and to reduce the use of pesticides. They did not control the insects however and proliferated beyond Queensland where they were introduced. They exude poison from glands on their shoulders and can be fatal to domestic pets which eat them, although some birds have mastered the art of catching and eating them without triggering the poison. There have been debates about how and whether they should be eliminated but not all methods utilised have been successful. The Cane Toad has been listed by the National Trust of Queensland as a state icon of Queensland, along with the Great Barrier Reef, and past icons, the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the backyard mango tree (also an introduced species). Local school children gave this toad the name Buffy.
Continuing north on Highway 1 towards Mackay, I noticed on the map that a range of mountains southwest of the city are called The Blue Mountains. I am familiar with the Blue Mountains in New South Wales but did not know there were others elsewhere. Coffs Harbour has a big banana, but Bowen has a big mango, illustrating one particular variety introduced and grown here.

Bowen also has a number of murals in the town centre, reminiscent of some American towns we have driven through. However, they are not in such vibrant colours as some of the American ones but they do illustrate the history of the town.


A must in Bowen is a drive to the top of Flagstaff Hill which gives 360 degree views. The interpretive centre is closed having been damaged in the most recent cyclone to hit the area.


There were a number of birds hanging around, this magpie obviously regularly perches on this street light.

After Bowen the surrounding area is much drier. At 1pm the temperature got up to 30 degrees. After lunch at a rest area we continued towards Townsville and again entered sugarcane territory.

We had to stop at a level crossing for a cane train to pass and counted 216 trucks.

In Townsville it was pretty windy on the strand and the beach was quiet with the lifeguards hanging around with not much to do.

Walking along the strand I spotted this sculpture: Bazza and Shazza by Jan Hynes in 2004.

A large number of helicopters kept passing over during late afternoon and early evening. A couple of them were obviously military but there were several others. I hope they stop before we need to sleep. 280 miles today brings the trip total to date to 1957 miles.

Around Australia: The Glass House Mountains


The Glass House Mountains acquired their current name because on 17th May 1770 Captain Cook (who was a Lieutenant at the time) noticed three hills and thought they resembled glass-making kilns in Yorkshire. Of course, they have been highly significant ancestral homes of the Jinibara and Kabi Kabi people for much longer. They request that the mountains are not climbed as they are sacred, but they remain popular with rock climbers and have been since the early 20th century. We arrived in the afternoon of our first night here and settled into our accommodation at the Ecolodge which sits under Mount Tibrogargan. We stayed in the restored 120 year old church building which was previously at Wivenhoe and re-located here when it closed in 1990. The owner bought a World War One settler block in 1982 and after acquiring the church began to plan the Eco-Lodge and opened in 2004. Breakfast is served in some renovated rail carriages with the birdsong all around.

There is so much to see and do here but with limited time we had to be selective. Fortunately, it remained dry, so we made our way to the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve which is situated on Mountain View Road. The reserve is a remnant of rainforest which has survived the surrounding farming and there are circular trails around it.

The visitors’ centre has a display of birds and their calls. We heard many, had fleeting glimpses of some including a Roufous Fantail, Brush Turkey and others, all too fast to photograph. We also spotted some wallabies.

Back at the centre we had a coffee closely observed by a magpie and a Brush Turkey.


There is a lookout with views over the mountains

and an exhibition area which on this occasion had a selection of works by local artists based on the nightlife of the reserve. I had to look up what a reduction linocut was as I plan to do some more at some point. It is where all the colours are added using the same block. After coffee we drove down Old Glympian Road to the Glass House Mountains Lookout which has views from the opposite direction.

Then it was back to Mount Tibrogargan to walk one of the trails around the mountain.

There is also a summit path from here which is for experienced climbers only, but we saw a young couple head up it without any equipment at all. There are views of Mount Beerwah and Mount Coonowrin from the trail.

and of Tibrogargan itself.

When we got back to the car park and sat having our lunch at a picnic table we had a kookaburra try to steal some of it and other birds hovering hopefully. One managed to find a small sip of water on the table.



Our mileage today was only 74 making the total to date 989.

Around Australia: getting over jet lag in Sydney


After a long but uneventful series of flights, we eventually landed in Sydney just after the 5am airport curfew. We settled into our hotel and rested before heading out to try and stay awake until the evening and beat the jet lag. The weather in Sydney was strangely not unlike that we had left at home. Our hotel was on the edge of Darling Harbour and fairly quiet as there was nothing on at the nearby conference centre. We walked across Pyrmont Bridge which crosses Cockle Bay and was the one of the first electrically operated swing bridges, opening in 1902 and replacing an earlier wooden bridge. It now carries pedestrians and cyclists and only opens occasionally on weekends and public holidays for demonstrations and occasionally to allow ships to pass.

After a coffee in a busy cafe we then walked along the edge of the bay, discovering the Chinese Garden of Remembrance which is an oasis among the skyscrapers and concrete of the freeways.

It then got windier and wetter, so giving into our fatigue it was time for an early night after a quick meal. The following morning the sun had appeared and before meeting a friend we walked into town and visited the Queen Victoria Building, an upmarket shopping arcade in a restored 19th century building.


Sitting having a drink in the upstairs tea room, we could have been in any of the arcades in a British city. Even the china was Royal Albert. I have felt that I have not quite left the northwest yet, having seen Liverpool and Everton FC shirts within a few hours of arriving, breakfast with St Helens playing Wigan Warriors at rugby on the TV and passing a group of guys in the street with Warrington Wolves jackets and backpacks. We met up with our friend and walked towards the end of the harbour where an abandoned dock has been turned into Barangaroo Reserve, a waterside park with views over to the Harbour Bridge.

Nearby a casino is being built and has to be circumnavigated to reach the waterside again. There are numerous cafes, bars and restaurants along here which made lunch easy to find. Our last evening before hitting the road was spent with friends in the city who treated us to a wonderful meal at their home. We hope to repay their hospitality in the UK next summer.

The Weeping Window comes to Stoke on Trent


Paul Cummins’ ceramic poppies were first seen as part of Tom Piper’s installation ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ at the Tower of London in 2014. This comprised of over 800,000 poppies. Since then, they have toured around the country from Southend on Sea to Orkney and many places in between. For some reason I had not managed to coincide with them at any point so when I heard that The Weeping Window would be nearer home, we decided to visit. The car park is on the site of a demolished factory and nearby there are derelict buildings along the Trent & Mersey Canal.

You can also get your supply of Staffordshire oatcakes at a nearby narrow boat.

Walking along the path to Middleport Pottery where the installation was sited, we passed a wall with ceramic mosaics.

Middleport is still a working pottery, making Burleigh ware and glimpses of moulds could be seen through some of the doors.


It is possible to have a tour of the factory if you wish. The pottery also holds workshops and other events. There is also a tea room, factory shops and galleries where some local artists and jewellers exhibit. The buildings are run by the United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust and an upcoming project of theirs is to renovate some terraced houses in a nearby street and create space for workshops, offices, archives and a community centre. The terraced houses in the same street as the pottery have also been renovated.

The installation is part of a larger World War One Trail around the city entitled Stoke on Trent Remembers. Weeping Window continues here until September 16th and is free to visit. It moves to the Imperial War Museum in London afterwards and the other installation, The Wave will be at the Imperial War Museum of the North in Manchester. I might be planning some canal walks for next year.

Liverpool: St George’s Hall floor revealed


St George’s Hall in Liverpool is a familiar building. In the years I worked in the city, the hospital Christmas Ball was held there annually until austerity measures kicked in. One of my colleagues told me that her grandfather had been one of the workers restoring the Minton tiled floor before the Hall was re-opened in 2007. The floor is covered when functions are held but once a year, it is uncovered and can be viewed. For £3 you can go in and look from the sides but for £12 a guided tour allows you onto the floor (with covered shoes) and explains a lot of the history and the significance of the decorations in the concert hall. It has now finished for this year.

We were told that in the early 19th century, musical events and festivals needed a venue. Many had previously been held in churches but some of the music was deemed too secular and other accommodation was required. A company was formed to raise the money and the foundation stones were laid on the site which from 1749-1824 had been the Liverpool Infirmary in 1938 to commemorate the coronation of Queen Victoria.

The Irish famine in the mid 19th century led to many more people arriving in Liverpool and the increased population led to the courts becoming overwhelmed. An additional court was needed and after a 25-year-old London architect, Harvey Lonsdale Elmes, won the competition to design both a concert hall and court, the decision was made to combine both facilities in one building. He died before the work was completed and John Weightman, Corporation Surveyor, and Robert Rawlinson, structural engineer continued it, until in 1851 Sir Charles Cockerell was appointed architect. He was largely responsible for the decoration of the interiors.

Our tour started in the Heritage Centre. We were led upstairs to the part of the building containing the court complex. The first cell we were taken into was lined with photographs of some of the prisoners. It could hold 50 people with one bucket for toilet facilities.

We could not see much of the court room as it was set up for a video presentation for the Liverpool Biennial. Apparently, it has been used as the Old Bailey in courtroom dramas. We were told that this was the first court which had a holding cell on the floor underneath the court room. This was the origin of the phrase ‘you’re going down’.

It was then time to enter the concert hall and be introduced to the features in the floor.

The organ was for a time, the biggest in the country but has now slipped to number three behind Liverpool Anglican Cathedral and the Albert Hall.

St George’s Plateau is the space between the Hall and Lime Street Station which has been used for many public gatherings. More recently Tommy Robinson, one of the Far-Right activists, claimed they had had thousands of people at a protest in London. The photograph supplied, when examined closely, was not in London but was St George’s Plateau 13 years previously with people at a home-coming for Liverpool FC after a Champions League Victory. Our guide explained the various emblems in the floor which represent Scotland, Ireland and England. Wales was not represented as it was a Principality, not a country at the time.



Liverpool is of course represented.

Statues line the walls, mainly of men but some notable women are now being added.
The architect had to design the roof and figured out a way of making holes in the bricks so that the structure was light enough to stay up.

In between the windows are statues of the virtues.

He also had to design the heating and ventilations system. With the tour finished we spent a little time doing some shopping, having a leisurely coffee and lunch before heading home again.

Meeting the Warriors in Liverpool


Last Friday saw us on the train to Liverpool to see the World Museum exhibition of ‘China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors’. I have heard that the reason the exhibition came to Liverpool this year rather than any other UK city, was that there are many Liverpool FC fans in China (known as ‘The Other Red Army) who campaigned for it. Liverpool has a very longstanding Chinese community, older than that in San Francisco. The warriors were discovered quite by chance in 1974. It estimated that there are around 8,000 figures and horses in total but only 2,000 have been excavated so far. We were seeing a very small sample of those. There were a number of displays of ancient Chinese history and the rise of the Qin dynasty. The Chinese Empire was bigger than the later Roman Empire. The tomb complex was huge, larger than the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. In addition to the warrior figures, there were horses and chariots, helmets, armour, weapons and items needed in the afterlife.




Other displays focussed on the Han Dynasty, the Silk Road and items which probably found their way to China via that route.

The warriors were perhaps the most striking items on display.



A lighting display of how the tomb might have looked in it’s setting:

We left the exhibition via a walkway with Chinese lanterns suspended above it.

Outside the sun was out, buskers were playing in the street and the city centre was busy. A group of people including the Merseyside Chief Constable, were abseiling down wires suspended from the Radio City Tower. Unfortunately they had just landed so I could not get a photograph of them. On the train back to Crewe, a guy was having a dispute with the train manager about the price of his ticket for the short journey to Liverpool South Parkway station. We began to wonder if the matter would be resolved before we got to his station but it was. The Terracotta Warriors exhibition continues until October so there is still plenty of time to see it.